The Scott Brothers on House Hunting, Home Designing, and Their New Luxury Program
Born and raised on the western side of the Canadian Rockies, Drew and Jonathan Scott bought their first house at 18. The identical twins, who star in HGTV’s hit reality series Property Brothers, put $250 down on a $200,000 home in Calgary soon after graduating high school.
“We wanted to do our creative outlets without being struggling talents,” Drew explains, noting that they were both actors as kids. (Jonathan is also an illusionist.) “So we thought real estate sounded like a good way to make some money and be able to afford making our own films or whatever we wanted to do.”
The duo flipped the home, making a $50,000 profit off the place. After Drew became a licensed broker and Jonathan went to college for construction and design, they launched their own business, Scott Real Estate. “It was sort of a one-stop-shop for people looking to buy, sell, renovate, or stage their homes to sell,” Jonathan says.
The company took off, and the Scotts ran it for nearly a decade before doing Property Brothers. The reality series, which began airing in 2011, features the pair as they help couples purchase and transform fixer-uppers into their dream homes. (The show boasts several spinoffs—among them Brother Vs. Brother, HGTV’s highest-rated program.)
In 2015, the twins debuted their own line of home furnishings and decor, Scott Living. And just a few weeks ago, they introduced Dream Homes—a new program that invites affluent clients around the globe to shop from a portfolio of unique luxury home concepts created by the twosome.
Here, Jonathan and Drew offer tips for purchasing and designing a new house, reveal common blunders homebuyers often make, and discuss their new exclusive offering.
Describe your design philosophy.
Jonathan: I hate it when you walk into someone's house and you can't tell who lives there—it's so sterile and there's no personality. When you walk in, you really should get a sense of who lives there and there should be conversation pieces in the art or the décor, and there should be just a vibe, something inviting that makes you say, “Hey, I want to plunk down in the sofa and stick around here for a while.” Your home should make your life easier, and that is different for every single person. You really have to analyze how your family functions, what you're looking for in a home.
Drew: When clients ask for a modern or contemporary design, we never do something that's stark and boring. There's always some sort of character we infuse—whether it's something that has meaning for the family or a rustic feature from the neighborhood or the original design.
How do you go about designing the homes featured on Property Brothers?
Jonathan: I'm very collaborative with the homeowners. You don't get to see a lot of it because it happens behind the scenes—there's just not enough time on the show. But we create inspiration for it, then we go through a lot of the selections with them so we know their style. Sometimes I'll pull them out of their comfort zone a little and give them something else. But on Property Brothers, everything you see in the design, all of the furniture, décor—is part of the budget and stays with the home. Same on Brothers Take New Orleans and Brother Vs. Brother—when people buy the homes, they can buy all the furniture, everything with it. But on Buying and Selling, homeowners are trying to sell their homes so they can get into their dream home and it’s mostly furniture and décor brought in by a staging company.
Name a big mistake house hunters often make.
Drew: When we were younger, the one thing that we didn't always do—because it was a really hot market and we didn't want to miss out on some properties—is research the house enough. So after the fact we would find some issues that, if we really dug in, did a full inspection and really looked into it, we would have noticed ahead of time and probably got the price down more. That's a big thing that we always portray to clients now—you always, even with a new home, do an inspection and look for anything that could be a possible issue if it's going to cost you more money. Then you evaluate the price again, what you're putting in for an offer. If it has to come down to make it a fair market value, you're moving forward at a stronger, more knowledgeable position.
What should every homebuyer seriously consider before purchasing a property?
A lot of times clients are blinded by certain features of a house—they forget the area. One thing we want to make sure is you know and like the area. Is it close enough to your kid's school? Is it a walkable neighborhood? Are there certain amenities nearby? Is the lot size what you need? The size of the home—are you able to do an addition? (We have clients that have jumped on buying a property and then they want to do a renovation, and they want to do a big addition, and then they realize after the fact that that community does not allow additions.)
Are there any major red flags homebuyers often fail to recognize?
Many homes built in the ‘50s and ‘60s have asbestos—whether it's in the tiling or in the insulation wrapping their pipes or in some of the roof tiles. If you don't know how to properly remediate, then you might be creating health hazards for you and your family. You really have to do your research and work with professionals who know what they're doing.
What’s the best do-it-yourself upgrade a homeowner can make to a house?
Jonathan: I would say paint. You hear it all the time, but paint really does make a difference. And also lighting. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, but upgrade your lighting so that every room is well lit. Those two things alone can drastically change the look of a home.
What advice can you offer a homeowner looking to improve a house before placing it on the market?
Drew: You've got to take the bias out of your home. Take your emotions out of it. Step back and ask yourself, “What's not working right now?” We call it the “ick factor”—the number of times a buyer looks at something in your home and goes "ugh." It might be a dirty switch plate, grimy fingerprints, a broken tile, or untrimmed hedges. It's all these little things that cost nothing to repair, but add up and make potential buyers walk away. And cleaning is huge. Make it so clean people can picture themselves having a meal in there. They should be able to eat off the floor.
Are there any spaces found in most homes with plenty of design potential that are often overlooked in a revamp?
Drew: One thing we find all the time is that people will renovate the kitchens, main bathroom or living area, but a lot of people forget about the master bedroom. Especially if you're looking to sell your property—whoever’s buying a home, they want to live and sleep somewhere comfortable. If you spend all your money elsewhere but you have this old, shaggy bedroom that isn't appealing, that's a huge deterrent for buyers. And if you don't have one and you have the ability to renovate and put one in, a walk-in closet in the master is a huge thing.
What’s the best piece advice you can offer first-time homebuyers?
Jonathan: The biggest investment that most people will ever make in their lives is buying their own home. You have to approach it like a business venture. You don't want to approach it emotionally. That's the hardest thing for us to get clients to understand is you want to put stuff in that's going to improve the resale value down the road. You want to put stuff in that's going to help accommodate the function of your lifestyle, but at the same time, there are many, many ways that you can look at a project and if the numbers don't work, walk away. That's the hardest thing that a lot of people have to deal with, walking away from a property. Do your due diligence in advance and you'll save yourself a lot of heartache.
Are there any house-hunting “rules” you would advise clients not to be afraid to break?
Jonathan: One of them is to dream big, no matter what their price point is. Jot down absolutely everything you would love to have in your home—that's the very first step. Then, from there, we divide them into the must-haves and the could-live-withouts.
Drew: Yeah, you should always dream big. We can always scale back—but sometimes, if you don't let yourself imagine to something big or that you really love, you'll never get to that, or you'll never find a solution that could be something close to that.
When it comes to fixer-uppers, is there such a thing as a lost cause?
Drew: Oh yeah, there definitely is. What we always say to our clients is that we can renovate any house to make it look pretty, but in the end you have to calculate if it's worthwhile. For example, on Property Brothers, if we have a house that has a structural problem, we never run away from it. We just have to assess the situation and bring in the experts to give us a price on what it would cost to fix the issues. If in the end we haven't spent more than the home’s value, it's actually worth it.
If you could design a home for any client, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jonathan: The family from The Sound of Music, with all the kids [the Von Trapps]. When you're doing a renovation, it's not just about the big kids or the little, it's about everybody in the family, even the dog. You'll notice that a lot of times we renovate for the furry, four-legged kids too. I think it would be fun to do something like that with a family that size so that you can ensure that every member of the family has something special that’s just for them. Everyone’s got to love the home.
Drew: Clint Eastwood is someone whom I'd love to work with down the road. That’s on the bucket list. He has a big ranch property, and I think it would be amazing to come in and just totally overhaul what he has and give him the ultimate ranch living—with modern functionality, but still a lot of that traditional character that I'm sure he loves. That would be fun for me.
Talk about Dream Homes. How does it compare to what you’ve done in the past?
Drew: We've been designing houses for years and years—I mean, since the '90s. For our shows, Property Brothers and Buying and Selling, we're showing one type of property. These are clients we're trying to help—they would never be able to do what we do for them if we didn't come along. It requires working with tight budgets and seeing what we can do to maximize their value.
Dream Homes represents the black-label side of what we have for design and architecture. It’s top-tier. We love being able to bring that to the forefront. Budget is not as much of a concern as it is showing these high-end, cutting-edge concepts for home design. It's really exciting for us.
Jonathan: We've designed these houses from scratch; we created this portfolio of concepts, and somebody will come to us and say, "Hey, I love this house. This is the one that I want." They'll buy that concept, and then from there we can adapt the concept to make sure that it encompasses the things that they're specifically looking for. The buyers want to have something that no one else on the planet is going to have. Every single design we've done is unique. You'll never see it again—we'll never design it again.
Name a few things most people might not know about the two of you.
Jonathan: I’m double-jointed in almost every which way you can possibly imagine. It’s a weird trick.
Drew: Next time you see Jonathan, put both his feet behind his head.
Jonathan: And about Drew—he takes lessons for everything…
Drew: I just finished a voice lesson before this. My personal philosophy is why reinforce bad habits when you can learn to do it right? I literally take lessons for everything. I enjoy it. Right now, I'm taking ping pong, golf, guitar, voice, acting…
Jonathan: I think it's so Drew can try and beat me at everything.
Drew: I'm very competitive, but I also like to fully understand something. I mean, even random things. I have a coin collection. (Jonathan and I had one when we were kids—I came across it three or four years ago and pulled it back out. My best coin—I'll tell you 'cause I'm a nerd—is from 10th century England.)
And I’m an organization freak. I mean, everything has its place. A week after we had finished this massive $2.5 million renovation on our house I said, “I want to knock out the back end of my walk-in closet and add more room,” so I stole 17 feet from the tandem garage. I have all that space, and my girlfriend [Linda] has like, one section.
Speaking of, we just got engaged! (But we have yet to set a date.)
Congratulations! Apart from the wedding, what’s next?
Drew: We have two new ventures that are going to be announced this year. We can't say anything yet, but these are huge ventures in our industry, so we look forward to talking about that.
Jonathan: You're going to be so sick of us in the business world, let me tell you.
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